An Interview with Michael Ragen

"...THE STORY WE WERE TRYING TO TELL TAKES SOME PSYCHEDELIC TURNS AND THAT'S WHERE THE LENSBABY CAME IN. I DIDN'T WANT TO RELY ON POST EFFECTS TO ACHIEVE THE DREAM STATE IMAGES."

September 2011

HOW DID YOU AND THE BAND COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR SLEEP FOREVER?

John Gourley and I had been talking about shooting in Alaska for a long time. We weren't sure if we would end up shooting a short film or a music video, but the opportunity came up to do a little bit of both. John grew up in Alaska and had this idea of slipping in the snow with his rifle. We just sort of built up everything around that. I would edit at night after each shoot day and we would figure out what to do the next day. It was a very organic process. The locations informed a lot of the creative decisions.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHOICE OF CAMERA AND LENSES FOR SLEEP FOREVER?

It was about making as simple of a usable package as possible. We had an 18-50 zoom, a 400mm telephoto, and a Lensbaby 3GPL with wide and telephoto adapters, along with screw-on ND's and a polarizer. The short zoom got us through most of the main shots, but I knew a telephoto lens would be important to capture the size of the landscapes and the distance between the viewer and John. The story we were trying to tell takes some psychedelic turns and that's where the Lensbaby came in. I didn't want to rely on post effects to achieve the dream state images.

DO YOU GENERALLY SHOOT THE 3GPL IN “FREE MODE” SIMILAR TO THE MUSE PL OR “LOCKED MODE” SIMILAR TO THE NEW COMPOSER PL - OR DO YOU USE BOTH FOR DIFFERENT SITUATIONS?

I do end up shooting it in free mode a lot for music videos so I can react to the singer's performance, but of course there are times to lock it down and dial it in as well.

The Lensbaby was invaluable to finishing the video for Portugal. The Man's "Guns & Dogs." We shot in a small studio with a regular lens, and then I spent quite a few months doing the post. After finishing the video I projected it and reshot the entire thing frame by frame with a Lensbaby. Because I was shooting it stop motion style I could tweak the Lensbaby to selectively blur what I wanted on a shot by shot basis. It added an organic softness to the image that I was having trouble figuring out how to achieve in post. It was a slow and painful process but the video would not have been the same without it.

FAVORITE SHOT OR SEQUENCE FROM SLEEP FOREVER? FROM CASKETS?

I tend to look back on projects more by the experience of making them than by a specific sequence. Both "Sleep Forever" and "Caskets" were about going to an interesting location and working with friends on something we could all be proud of, hopefully having a unique experience along the way.

While preparing to shoot "Sleep Forever" I never intended to actually ride on the front of a dogsled with my camera. I had brought along a small POV camera to mount on the sled, with John at the helm, but after testing we were unhappy with the footage so we decided it was worth just jumping on there with the Red and seeing what happened. I took a few small spills but it was worth it.

ANY DREAM PROJECTS?

Transformers 4 C-camera operator 2nd unit.

 

See more of Michael's work at michaelragen.com.

Back to Movie Studio.

All images are the copyrighted works of the producer, distributor, or publisher of the work.